Landlord Action says court delays through under-resourced county courts being overwhelmed by the number of possession claims being put forward, are resulting in costly delays for landlords.
The leading tenant eviction service says it has become such a problem in the last 3 months, that chasing up cases with the courts is now a full-time role for one member of their in-house legal team.
The vast majority of residential possession claims are dealt with in the county courts and enforced by county court bailiffs. However, Government spending cuts, an ever growing number of possession cases (predicted to be up 15% on last year, according to Landlord Action) and the enforcement by some courts that bailiffs must no longer act alone, only in pairs, have combined to create serious delays in the eviction process, according to Julie Herbert, Head of Legal at Landlord Action.
“We are forever chasing courts for updates on possession orders, Notice of Issues or bailiff appointments. By the courts’ own admission, cases are getting overlooked, administrative errors are being made and there are simply not enough bailiffs to support the number of cases, leading to long delays.”
This is having serious implications for landlords who are not only losing thousands of pounds in unpaid rent but racking up more legal costs the longer a case goes on. Some landlords, who are unable to meet mortgage payments as a result, even face possible repossession, in addition to the added risk of their property being left uninhabitable by current tenants, where communication has broken down.
One Landlord, Mr Waller, has had severe delays with his case as a result of the courts losing his claim, twice. Landlord Action finally obtained a hearing date, which took place on 24th November. Mr Waller said: “Our eviction case has been delayed for almost a year due to severe maladministration by the courts; files were repeatedly lost and the inefficiency we and Landlord Action encountered was astounding.
This has been a deeply frustrating experience for us as landlords, but an even more harrowing one for our tenant who desperately wants to be rehoused by the council and needs a court order. We’re in an impossible catch 22 situation, which only the courts can resolve. The negligence and insouciance of certain individuals are quite literally destroying people’s lives.”
Ms Herbert of Landlord Action says another common frustration is when a possession order has been granted and a bailiff appointment confirmed, but the tenant makes a last minute application because they have nowhere else to go.
“The standard procedure is that a hearing has to be considered by a judge. We recently learnt that many of these applications don’t even reach a judge, who would have the authority to strike out an application based on the information already provided. Instead, the knee jerk reaction of court staff is to set down a hearing date, in which everyone is dragged to court, only for a judge to pass that the application has no merit.”
This flaw in the system can delay the whole process by as much as 2-3 months. “We are currently acting on a case where this has happened, and rather than the landlord having his property back by the end of November, there is now a hearing in January 2015” adds Julie.
About Landlord Action:
Landlord Action is a UK based organisation helping landlords, letting agents and other property professionals. As a champion for landlords, it has campaigned extensively and was instrumental in getting the law changed to make squatting a criminal offence.
It was founded in 1999 as the first ever fixed-fee tenant eviction specialist, they revolutionised this area of legal practice. They have now acted in more than 28,000 problem tenant cases and are considered the authority in this field.
Landlord Action run a free advice line to help landlords and property professionals understand their rights: 020 8 906 3838
About Paul Shamplina
Paul Shamplina is one of the key founders of Landlord Action with 25 years experience in the legal field. He has previously worked as a legal clerk, private investigator, debt collector and certified bailiff.
He has appeared regularly on TV and radio and lectures across the UK at landlord seminars and events and still works full time in the office, heading up the team of advisors.
Paul believes passionately in the rights of the landlord and is always available for comment on any landlord/tenant matters.